Christian laughs at me as the car lurches. He's sitting in the back seat, judging me, chuckling every time the car moves an inch. He's making me nervous and I can't focus. I can't drive now the way I did the first time my dad brought me to the mall parking lot. It was my dad's idea to let him come along with us. "He should learn too," was my father's reasoning. I rolled my eyes and even though Christian said, "I already know how to drive, sir," I went along with it because I felt bad leaving him at home by himself. My mother went out with her friends for coffee and a bite to eat.
But I really hope he doesn't know how to drive. I would never get in a car with him behind the wheel. I could only imagine what driving with him is like. He could drive fast and recklessly, howling out the window like the maniac he is, and get into an accident, killing everyone. Our bodies wouldn't be found for a few days because of how far out the main road is from the city. It's a frightening thought, Christian driving.
I push the thought to the back of my mind and start over. I try to not think of his presence, but I can feel his heavy gaze on me through the rear view mirror. I glance at him and turn it away so as to not allow myself the chance to catch his brooding dark eyes.
“What are you doing, Mel? You need to see out of that!” My father turns the mirror back and adjusts it so I can see everything behind me, especially Christian.
I roll my eyes and press my foot down on the gas pedal, maneuvering through the parking lot of Walmart. There are a lot more cars in this lot compared to how many were in the mall lot several days ago. The sun shines brightly in my eyes and I'm a few inches too short to be shielded by the visor. It only shades the top half of my forehead. I squint so I can see everything around me, making sure I don't bump into any cars or pedestrians. My father looks less nervous than he did last time, and now that Christian has shut up I'm able to concentrate better and go a bit faster.
“Slow down, speed racer. We're in a parking lot,” my dad says.
“Yeah, I know dad, but there's a parade developing behind me. I'm moving like a snail.”
He sighs. “Pull into a spot. I need to go buy stuff anyways.”
My dad walks ahead of us, into Walmart, retreating down the candy aisle. It seems as if he only wanted to get out of the car; he doesn’t really need to buy anything.
Christian and I wander around, scoping everything out. I lose him for a good ten minutes when I wander off to the movies section and pluck a few to read their descriptions. The words don’t stick with me though; my mind feels as if it’s clouded over with a haze that’s feeding off my thoughts.
I wander aimlessly in and out of aisles, picking out bags of candy and a bottle of purple nail polish. I skim through the clothes on the racks, taking in nothing but the colors. My mind is everywhere but here and I can’t understand why. All of a sudden a heavy weight dropped in my chest. I feel upset, but I’m not even sure what about. Maybe I’m just tired.
There’s a woman walking my way, calling out for her son. Her eyes are bugged out of her head and she looks frantic. “Fredrick!” she calls, over and over. I just watch her. She’s abandoned the shopping cart she was pushing a few displays ago, quickening her pace and waving her arms around spasmodically.
I hear a rustle and a kid with an orange puffer jacket pops out before me from behind the clothing rack. He yells “Boo!” and starts laughing. My heart stops for a moment and then I smiled at him, laughing along with him.
The woman comes closer to me and grabs her son. “I’m so sorry,” she says. She starts scolding him about wandering off and disturbing other shoppers. I tell her it’s okay, but I think she’s more glad that she found him that anything. I watch as she drags him away. The boy starts to cry, his fingers shoved into his drooling mouth.
“Hey do you have money, Princess?”
I jump back, tearing my gaze away from the child and his angst-ridden mother. Christian stands beside me, a couple of T-shirts and jeans slung over his forearm. My heart lurches out of my chest; it feels as if it’s going to burst through me and splatter Christian with my gory insides.
“Um, kind of. Why?”
“Well, since I can’t go back to my house, I figured I would need a few changes of clothes while I’m at yours.”
“Don’t you have any money?”
“Only twenty bucks. Could you help out?”
He smiles at me and walks alongside me as I venture down the aisles aimlessly once more. His arm continually bumps into mine, his fingers brushing over my own. I pull my hand away and put it into the pocket of my sweatshirt. My fingers are cool against the warmth of the cotton material. Christian’s feet are dragging and I look down at his shoes, ratty and tearing at the heels. Every now and then I discreetly kick his heel or “accidentally” make him trip just so he could stop dragging. After a while he starts giving me looks and he knows that I’m doing it on purpose.
He wraps his foot around my ankle and tugs, making me loose balance and I start to go down. He catches me, the clothes that were draped over his arm having fallen to the floor with a clink of the hanger. I squeal and clasp onto his arms, digging in my fingernails, trying to hold my own. His face is low, close to mine, and he’s laughing at me. I give him a look, but it fades instantly. I’m too tired to even keep a straight face and I give him a weary smile.
“Okay. You’ve had your laughs. Pull me up now,” I say.
He starts to pull me up, slowly, and then feigns a slip of the arm and I start to go down again, my feet slipping on the waxed flooring. I make another squeal – I sound like a pig – and he laughs again. He is getting an immense amount of joy out of this.
I smack him in the arm and he pulls me up. I shove him away, playfully, not too hard. He chuckles, his shoulders lazily rising and falling, and he bends down to pick up his clothing from the floor.
“Just trying to have a little fun, Dandelion,” he says.
“Great. Another new nickname.” I roll my eyes.
“You’d rather I say it in Spanish? Diente de león.”
“She when do you speak Spanish?”
He shrugs, giving me a wry smile. “Since now.”
We walk side by side through the magazine aisle, plucking out random readings and flipping through the pages as if they’re motion-pictures. He picks up a magazine about motorcycles, and girl dressed in nothing but a pale blue bikini posing over it, her slender palms gripping the handlebars. I roll my eyes and walk out of the aisle, going through the jewelry department. I glance into the display cases, the lights making the diamonds shimmer almost blindingly. The lights are meant to overly-glamorize the hundred-dollar pieces. There’s a tap on my left shoulder and I look, and Christian laughs deceivingly on my right side. I give him a look and continue to examine the diamond necklaces.
“Which one is your favorite?” Christian asks, leaning down close to the glass to get a better look at them.
I shrug and put my hands into the adjoining pocket of my sweatshirt. “I particularly don’t like any one of them. They’re all too expensive; I can’t buy any anyways. May as well not lust over any.”
“Okay, but if you did have the money, which one would you pick?” His eyes are steady on me, awaiting an appropriate answer.
I scan them again and settle on one that is under two-hundred dollars. “That one.” I point to a long silver chain with a purple diamond hanging from it. The diamond was cut to be shaped as a dove in flight. The diamond itself is quite small; just barely the size as the top of my pinkie. The diamond is cut so precisely, though, I can’t help but be drawn to it. “I would buy that one. The purple dove.”
Christian purses his lips and gives a curt nod. “That’s a nice one. How about –”
“Melinda! Are you ready to go?”
I turn and see my dad standing at the other end of the case, hands tightly gripping the bar of the shopping cart. He looks so tired, I’m sure he just wants to get home.
“Yeah,” I call back. I turn to Christian. “Here, give me your clothes so I can go pay for them.” He hands me the pile and pulls a twenty out of his pocket but I tell him to keep it. “I got it. Now, what were you saying?”
He shakes his head. “It was nothing, Princess.”